“Messi explodes” was the headline emblazoned on the cover of newspaper Mundo Deportivo.
Lionel Messi, rarely known for speaking out or, more importantly, out of turn, could not keep his emotions in check and allowed them to boil over when analysing what has been a calamitous season finale for Barcelona after Thursday’s flaccid 2-1 La Liga defeat at home by Osasuna, followed by Real’s solid 2-1 victory over Villareal that saw them lift the LaLiga trophy.
Lambasting his side with indictments like “weak”, “inconsistent” and “very easy to score against”, the infuriated club captain called for urgent changes after Barca surrendered the league title to Real Madrid, saying it was no good to use their rivals’ relentless form as a convenient and lame excuse.
Barca’s attentions now invariably turn to the Champions League, a trophy they have somehow glaringly failed to win since 2015 despite holding court for most of that period in Spain.
With their current dismal, inconsistent form, few would back them to win the tournament in Lisbon this August, least of all Messi himself, who had publicly makde known his opinion that he certainly does not even fancy their chances of clearing the upcoming hurdle of their last-16 tie with Napoli, which is poised at 1-1 ahead of the second leg at the Camp Nou on Aug. 8.
“I said a while ago that it would be very hard to win the Champions League if we kept playing like this and it turned out it wasn’t even good enough to win the league,” he said.
“If we want to win the Champions League we need to change many things, otherwise we will lose to Napoli too.
“We need to clear our heads, this break should give us the opportunity to take some air as things have been very bad from January to now.”
Notably, Messi’s use of words seemed to indicate a particularly scathing reference to the tenure of coach Quique Setien, who was appointed in January after the club sacked Ernesto Valverde when they were top of the table on goal difference.
Setien, meanwhile, also did not give exactly give himself a full vote of confidence, making the concession he was uncertain if the club would maintain their faith in him for the Champions League campaign looming immediately ahead.
“I hope so, but I don’t know. I agree with Messi on some things and that we need to take a hard look at ourselves,” he said.
Barca’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu, the man around whom controversies have been raging, has just officially confirmed that Setien will still be the man to helm the team for the Champions League, but neither he nor the coach are set for a long stay at the club. Bartomeu’s tenure as president, controversial or otherwise, ends in 2021 and he is officially ineligible to stand for re-election after having served two terms.
Victor Font is the front-runner in the upcoming elections and has adamantly promised to bring former club great Xavi Hernandez with him as coach to help resurrect Barca’s old glory days.
The former midfielder, who is currently in charge of Qatari side Al Sadd, has declared that he and his staff are already earnestly preparing for the Barca job.
Just bring Neymar back, some would say. Barca’s finances not in agreement with this demand at this juncture, that would indeed be a major miracle that would help lift the gloom off the once mighty club. At the least, it would bring a rare smile to the face of one very dejected Barcelona talisman.
And a happy Messi is a happy Barcelona, everyone know this.